Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the decision of the circuit court granting the demurrers filed by Carilion Clinic and Carilion Healthcare Corporation (collectively, Carilion) and dismissing all of Lindsey Parker’s claims against it, including both vicarious and direct liability claims, holding that the circuit court correctly dismissed the direct liability claims but erred in dismissing the vicarious liability claim on demurrer. Parker sued Carilion and two Carilion employees, alleging that they had disclosed her confidential medical information to others. Parker served process on Carilion but did not serve either employee. The circuit court sustained Carilion’s demurrers. The Supreme Court held (1) Parker’s notice of appeal was timely; (2) the circuit court erred in granting the demurrer to the extent that it dismissed Parker’s respondent superior claim against Carilion; and (3) the circuit court properly found that Carilion was not directly liable under Fairfax Hospital v. Curtis, 254 Va. 437, 442 (1997) or under the doctrine of negligence per se. View "Parker v. Carilion Clinic" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an employer owes a duty of care to an employee’s family member who alleges exposure to asbestos from the work clothes of an employee where the family member alleges the employer’s negligence allowed asbestos fibers to be regularly transported away from the place of employment to the employee’s home. Three years after Wanda Quisenberry was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibers, Wanda died. Plaintiff alleged that Wanda was exposed to asbestos when her father brought home on his clothes asbestos fibers from his place of work, that Employer had reason to know of the dangers that asbestos posed to workers’ family members, and that Employer was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care to sufficiently warn workers not to wear work clothes home. Employer sought to dismiss the action on the basis that Virginia precedent did not support imposing a legal duty on an employer for injury to an employee’s family member that occurred outside the premises. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia then issued a certification order requesting that the Supreme Court consider this dispositive question of law. The Supreme Court answered as set forth above, holding that the take-home duty is recognized by Virginia law. View "Quisenberry v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court striking Plaintiff’s evidence at the trial of her personal injury action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that Defendants only owed a duty of care to Plaintiff commensurate with the duty a landlord owes its tenant. Plaintiff rented Defendants’ vacation rental house for her family’s one-week vacation at Virginia Beach. Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that Defendants were negligent because they failed to maintain the house’s floors in a safe and fit condition and failed to warn her of the dangerous condition that caused her to fall. At the conclusion of Plaintiff’s evidence Defendants moved to strike her evidence and enter judgment for Defendants. The circuit court granted the motion on the grounds that Defendants only owed Plaintiff a duty of care commensurate with that of landlord and tenant. The court then entered judgment in Defendants’ favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants did not owe Plaintiff the elevated duty of care that an innkeeper owes its guest but rather, under the evidence presented by Plaintiff, Defendants only owed Plaintiff the duty of care that a landlord owes its tenant. View "Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Plaintiff’s amended complaint alleging a wrongful death action failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted against Irish Fleet, Inc. and Reginald Morris under a theory of assumed duty. Plaintiff, the administrator of the estate of Peter Ambrister, brought this wrongful death action against Defendants arising from the murder of her husband, a taxicab driver, by his passenger. Irish Fleet and Morris filed demurrers to Plaintiff’s amended complaint, asserting that Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to support a cause of action based on a theory that they assumed a duty to Plaintiff. The circuit court sustained the demurrers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the amended complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted against Defendants under a theory of assumed duty. View "Terry v. Irish Fleet, Inc." on Justia Law

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The circuit court did not err when it ruled that Plaintiff, a retired firefighter, was not a disabled person entitled to receive health insurance benefits under the Virginia Line of Duty Death and Disability Act, Va. Code 9.1-400 et seq. Plaintiff was diagnosed with throat cancer after he retired from the fire department but did not experience any health problems while he worked as a firefighter. The circuit court concluded (1) under the plain reading of the Act, Plaintiff’s duties as a firefighter ceased as of his retirement; and (2) because Plaintiff became disabled after he retired, his claim for insurance coverage under the Act was not viable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not a “disabled person” under the Act because his incapacity did not prevent the “further performance” of his duties as a firefighter. Therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to continued health insurance coverage under the Act. View "Jones v. Von Moll" on Justia Law

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This Court’s holding in Wyatt v. McDermott, 725 S.E.2d 555 (Va. 2012), which recognized the tort of intentional interference with parental rights, did not extend to the factual allegations against Defendants in this case. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging tortious interference with her parental rights. Defendants demurred to the complaint. The circuit court granted the demurrers as to all but one of the defendants, finding that the allegations did not constitute a viable claim as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint did not allege facts sufficient to state a claim for tortious interference with parental rights against the majority of the defendants. View "Coward v. Wellmont Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff’s wrongful death action against the manufacturer of a lift truck, holding that Plaintiff’s evidence failed, as a matter of law, to establish a design defect. Plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the lift truck, on theories of negligent design and breach of an express or implied warranty. A jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff on a theory of negligent design. The trial court subsequently dismissed the case on the basis that the evidence established contributory negligence as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed on the alternate basis that Plaintiff’s evidence failed to establish a negligent design as a matter of law. View "Evans v. NACCO Materials Handling Group" on Justia Law

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The carbon monoxide detector in an apartment sounded. A maintenance worker replaced the batteries; the alarm later sounded again. The following morning, tenants called Virginia Natural Gas (VNG). VNG’s inspector measured the apartment’s CO levels as hazardous, turned off the gas, and “red-tagged” the furnace. A maintenance worker later declared that he had checked the furnace and vent pipes for leaks, found an attic vent pipe loose, reattached it, and rechecked the CO level, Although not licensed to make heating system repairs, he used screws to secure the sections, contrary to specifications. A code enforcement officer determined that CO levels were within the acceptable range, without visiting the attic or inspecting the equipment. Weeks later, the alarm sounded again. A VNG inspector red-tagged the furnace. With a new furnace installed, the CO levels remained high. The adjoining apartment's furnace was venting into the attic. When the flue was repaired, CO levels dropped. The tenants suffered injuries. In their suit, the court ruled that the tenants failed to establish the requisite level of negligence for punitive damages. They were permitted, over the landlord’s objection, to increase their prayers for compensatory damages. The jury awarded three tenants $200,000 each and a fourth $3,500,000. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed in part and remanded for a new trial. The court erred in admitting the testimony of an environmental medicine specialist, which had not been disclosed under Rule 4:1(b)(4)(A)(i); erred in admitting testimony regarding alleged defects in the installation of the new furnace--such defects were after-the-fact and not relevant; in permitting amendment of the prayers for relief; in granting a spoliation instruction with regard to tenants’ inability to inspect the furnace. View "Emerald Point, LLC v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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Ahmed alleged that as an inmate at Greensville Correctional Center, he suffered an injury to his head and neck on September 10, 2013, when the telephone he was using fell from the wall and struck him. Ahmed filed informal complaints on the same day against the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC). DOC responded on September 27. Ahmed filed grievances on September 30, which the DOC ruled to be “[u]nfounded” on October 22. On October 24, Ahmed filed an appeal, triggering a “Level II” review under the Inmate Grievance Procedure. DOC affirmed on October 30, informing Ahmed that “Level II is the last level of appeal” and that he has “exhausted all administrative remedies.” Ahmed filed notice of a tort claim against the Commonwealth on September 22, 2014, with his required affidavit verifying that he had exhausted administrative remedies. Ahmed filed a complaint on February 24, 2016. The circuit court dismissed, finding that Ahmed’s notice of claim was not filed within one year (VTCA 8.01-195.7). The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed. Code section 8.01-195.3(7) states that “[t]he time for filing the notice of tort claim shall be tolled during the pendency of the grievance procedure." The grievance process continued until October 30, 2013. View "Ahmed v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether, during the sale of JB&A, Inc., a government contracting firm, to MCR Federal, LLC, another government contractor, MCR’s false statement of that a representation and warranty in the contract remained true was a fraudulent act independent of the contractual relationship such that JB&A properly brought actions for both fraud and breach of contract. The trial court held MCR liable for breach of contract and constructive fraud and awarded $12 million in compensatory damages. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) JB&A did not bring proper claims for actual or constructive fraud; (2) the evidence presented at trial established that MCR’s breach of contract caused JB&A substantial damages; (3) the trial court properly granted compensatory damages of $12 million and pre-judgment interest of $3.5 million; and (4) the trial court erred in awarding JB&A attorney’s fees in the amount of $1.9 million for prevailing on its claim of constructive fraud. View "MCR Federal, LLC v. JB&A, Inc." on Justia Law